What’s New, York?
by H D Thompson
Flying into New York always comes with a familiar sense of returning to a place that feels like home and in the most bizarre ways. Like when I step off the Air Train into the fray I get slapped with the resident smells of the city – if New York had a cologne it would be a mix of trash, laundry, pizza and dreams, both shattered and bourgeoning – and immediately feel at ease. Like slipping into a great pair of shorts I haven’t worn in a while but always feel so good on my balls.
When I left Melbourne it was raining and cold and arriving in New York it was raining but warm. The difference is jarring but wonderful and allowed me the liberty to skip along the sidewalks singing along to Belinda Carlisle’s Summer Rain.
While walking along the streets of Brooklyn a dude in the distance pointed and yelled something out to me. As I got closer he exclaimed that he liked my moustache, then continued to heap compliments upon me for a few minutes while I gushed and tried half-heartedly to deflect this attention. After about five minutes of this went by, his true intentions became clear as he asked me if I had time to talk about the charity that he worked for, to which I said no, no I did not, and walked away. I have oodles of time for my self-esteem but none for the starving children, apparently.
My time here is spent staying with my friend and very good human aDore, and while in his apartment writing one day something bizarre happened. Sitting at the table, through the window that leads to the alley separating the buildings I hear a loud smash and a blood-curdling scream. I pause my music and call out, “Hello? Are you ok?”. I hear nothing back and start to worry because it absolutely sounded like a woman just got murdered. I go for a walk to talk to the police who are up the road, but rationalise that I was probably being over dramatic and return to the apartment and hear movement, so assume that everything is ok. I assumed that she thought I was being nosy and ignored me. New Yorkers hate nosy foreigners.
The local bagel joint in Greenpoint has saltwater taffy for sale called “Orthodox Chews”, which is the greatest thing. They’re wildly expensive, which all perfect things in life should be.
Saw a play written by Jesse Eisenberg that featured a character turning up half-way ranting and raving about her new self-sustainable lifestyle, one of those obnoxiously written enviro-kids that would eat their own shit to prove they’re better than everyone else. Then at one point she went to the fridge and pulled out two plastic disposable water bottles, and while this had nothing to do with the play it pissed me off to no end and will continue to do so every time I think about it in the future.
There’s an app over here called Citizen, a crowd sharing information hub which sends you notifications about crimes happening in your area when people update it. Yet, when one gets a message about a brawl happening around the corner from where you are, one is far more inclined to check it out rather than avoid it. When we got a notification that a man had exposed himself nearby on the street I almost ran to the scene.
I met a girl on the train who told me she had just come from an open mic night where a very famous and prominent Broadway actor had a very public meltdown on stage and was so drunk she fell off the stage into a group of people. The drag queen hosting the night got her escorted out, even though she could barely walk, and then went on stage to ask everyone to delete the videos they had of the incident in respect of the woman and her clearly serious moment of personal disaster. While I respect that move and think it’s great they’re looking out for their own, an even larger part of me would give my kingdom for that footage.
In order to scratch an itch, I downloaded the applicable platform to do so and fucked a dude on his lunch break in the disabled bathroom of his shared office space in Brooklyn. In and out, so to speak, which is fantastic because we’re both busy people with things to do. I love the transactional nature of these encounters. I’ve spent more time here in line to buy pizza.
Caught up with a friend from Melbourne who coincidentally was also in town. We went to Times Square and watched a famous drag queen help Ripley’s Believe It or Not unveil the breaking of the world record for the longest feather boa. Standing on the road while traffic just went around us, we watched the show while tiny feathers flew in the air around us. The boa was long, sure(stretched out, apparently the length of four Empire State Buildings), but I was more impressed that Shangela could do a shablam on the ground of this concrete jungle. The lady knows how to work. After, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and saw the tail end of a free Roy Ayers show at the MetroTech. For a couple of Melbourne kids, this day was ridiculous.
My friend choreographed a show called A Strange Loop and invited me along to the opening, which was in all honestly one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. Afterward, we went along to the after party across the road where I was in the room with everyone involved and a slew of talented people far more wonderful than I. The genius responsible for creating the show complimented me on my suit and said my accent was fun. I have never felt more unworthy yet so welcome in equal measure.
While visiting the New York State Library, which is one of my favourite buildings in the world that always heals my soul, it started pouring down raining. As I went to leave I stood on the front stoop and next to me a woman walks out and exclaims, “Oh no! What are we going to do now?!”. A small child next to her, presumably her son, throws his arms up in despair and replies in the most exasperated way, “I dunno get wet I guess!”. It was so wonderfully animated and American.
Walked past two basic tourist girls taking a selfie video of some kind, saying “New York, why you gotta be so hard?! You’re so exhausting!”, all the while seated directly next to a homeless person asleep on a bench.
Back at the apartment writing, I heard a woman call out through the window, “Hello?”, to which I replied the same. She asked me if I had called out the other day, and I said I did. She said thank you for checking up on her and that she was just having a really bad day. I said no worries and we both went about our business. I’m glad she wasn’t murdered, but even on my worst days I don’t have a scream at the ready that sounds like it belongs in an old Hitchcock film.
At one of aDore’s work events in a tiny dive bar that I was invited along to, we saw a show by two of the industry’s top drag queens. It was cramped, it was sweaty, it was intimate and it was fucking incredible. Bob the Drag Queen danced for a few seconds with me and Monét X Change either winked in my direction or was trying to get the sweat off her eyes, either way, my face is still sore from the incredulity of this city’s magic.
Took a ferry to Rockaway beach on the first fully sunny day. While there, a man walked around calling out, “Nutcracker!”, which is apparently a bootleg bathtub booze situation I am obviously all about, and drinking one was like tasting the rainbow. I’m sure if I had more than one I would go blind. On the ferry back there was another ferry off in the distance that a dude next to me was waving at. They couldn’t possibly see him, so in mockery I gave them the finger, to which he slapped me on the shoulder and scolded me, saying “positive vibes only on this boat!”. I laughed it off then immediately got a splinter under the nail of the finger I had used to flip them off, which is ridiculously instant karma at play. When we got back, one of the girls I was with said her boyfriend lived in an apartment nearby and that we should go up and hang there. He wasn’t home, but that apparently didn’t matter. So there we were hanging on a rooftop we had no business being on really, dressed in beachwear while showered and clean people dressed in preppy clothes milled about us. We were the trash kids in a treasure trove and it was fantastic.
aDore’s housemate is a wonderful ball of energy that I have taken a very quick liking to. She books her hair appointments after-hours so that she and her hairdresser can talk explicitly without reprehension about their sex lives and all else, and when she was there the other day he told her that the receptionist didn’t show up that day because she was arrested. He didn’t know why yet, but Jemma is going to book another appointment just to find out, even though she won’t need anything done. This is the level of chaotic energy I find deeply inspiring.
Back at the apartment, my saga with the mysterious faceless woman continued. While sitting writing, a large gust of wind came out of nowhere and blew a framed picture off the sill, shattering it on the floor. It was so sudden I screamed out in surprise. A few seconds later I heard through the window a, “Hello? Are you ok?”. I called back and said I was fine just startled and she commented on how that wind came out of nowhere. We said bye and that was it. I have no idea what this lady looks like or where she even lives, she’s just a voice in the void that I somehow now have a strange relationship with. How very.
My very dear friend organised a bbq at her place with all the friends I had made last time I was here and we hung out on her rooftop dreamscape decorated with adult playground equipment and sunlight that sets behind the Manhattan skyline in the distance. For them, it was just another day, but for me, it was a dream I never wanted to wake up from.
We went and saw Toy Story 4 at the Alamo, a cinema that served me a chilli cheese dog and Dr Pepper during the film, and when we got out the foyer was playing Alanis Morissette’s Head Over Feet. It was perfectly apt in so many ways, because, New York – you have already won me over, I have fallen head over feet, and I do love you for all that you are. I couldn’t help it. It’s all your fault.